One of the nation's leading experts on brain and cognitive science, University of Rochester professor Elissa Newport, has been elected the chair of the psychology section of the National Academy of Sciences. She will serve a three-year term, taking over responsibilities from current chair Richard Shiffrin on May 1.
Newport is a specialist in language acquisition. Her research seeks to determine the various mechanisms by which humans and animals learn to communicate through language, studying topics such as why humans have a unique ability to learn complex languages, and why children are better able to learn language than adults. Through her work, Newport helped settle the once-controversial hypothesis that there are crucial periods in children's development when they are "primed" to learn – a theory which is now widely accepted.
Newport is the George Eastman Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, and has been the chair of that department for 12 years. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Psychological Society, and the Cognitive Science Society (of which she is on the governing board). She is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.
As chair of the psychology section of the National Academy of Sciences – one of 31 sections that comprise the Academy – Newport will manage and coordinate the membership activities for the section and represent the field of psychology to other organizations and the public as a whole.
Newport received her doctorate in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and was a Sloan Fellow in Linguistics and Cognitive Science at Penn and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been on the faculty at the University of California at San Diego, the University of Illinois, and, since 1988, the University of Rochester.
About the National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Since 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has served to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.